Bangladesh Seeks To Throttle Independent News Sites And Their Awkward Stories
from the good-news-only dept
One of the great things about online news sites is that they are so easy to set up: you don’t need a printing press or huge numbers of journalists — you just start posting interesting stories to the Web and you are away. That is, you do unless you happen to live in Bangladesh, where new regulations will make it much harder to set up news sites, as this story from Access Now explains:
the regulation “stipulates that a onetime payment of Bangladeshi Taka 500,000 (USD $6,100) should be deposited with the Ministry of Information to get a license for an online news portal. Each year this license should be renewed by paying 50,000 Taka (USD $610). The license fee can be revised by the government at anytime.”
To put those numbers in context, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Bangladesh, when adjusted for purchasing power parity, is roughly USD $1,700 per year. That ranks 196th in the world, right near the bottom.
Bangladesh is not only one of the poorest nations on earth, it also does pretty badly when it comes to press freedom, ranking 129 out of 179 countries listed on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index for 2011-12. The new regulations seem likely to push it further down that list, not least thanks to rules like these:
The following program/news should not be published/broadcast: … (b) Any news/program that is violating the main principles of the state and the governance; … (e) Any indecent or provocative satire/music/advertisement/news or any program with subtitles that may pollute, corrupt or hurt peoples’ feeling and morality. … (k) Any news/program that may hurt the feeling of any friendly country.
Other requirements are that the servers running the news site must be located inside Bangladesh, and that their IP addresses must be provided to the Ministry of Information. More bizarrely:
No local online portal should link to other local and international news portals.
As the Access Now piece points out, this suggests the Bangladeshi government doesn’t understand how the Internet works, since a news site without links to other online news stories is doomed to parochialism.
Or maybe that’s the point. After all, it seems pretty clear that the measures are designed to stifle dissent and criticism of the government by making it very hard for independent news sites to be created except by well-funded outfits more interested in profits than protest, and hobbling them in various ways even if they do. It’s particularly sad to see Bangladesh trying to restrict the use of a wonderful technology that could do so much to help lift its people from the difficult circumstances in which they live.